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The day the water tower came to Better World Tondo

The poor bear the brunt of insufficient access to water. How water can redound even more positive outcomes in poor communities.

Those of us living in more affluent neighborhoods will probably never fully appreciate how water changes lives. The poor bear the brunt of insufficient access to water. Children who don’t have access to clean water are often sick as a result of waterborne illnesses and miss out on school. They’re left behind and unable to catch up on lessons. Poor families spend a huge part of their already limited income on purchasing clean water.  It’s no coincidence that water, sanitation, and hygiene underpin many poverty-fighting development projects by governments and non-profits alike.

So it was a happy day in Better World Tondo when Capital One Philippines, a BPO and support services provider to its US-based parent delivered a water tower to the community.

Participating in the water tower build, which took less than six hours to complete, were volunteers from Philippine Normal University, Planet Water, Agila, and San Miguel. By the time the students of AHA! Learning were done with morning classes, the water tower was up and ready for use.

"They haven't stopped washing their hands," laughs Mabeth Fetalco, program associate for Better World Tondo. Children are good-naturedly elbowing each other out of the way to get to the faucets. There's a lot of happy splashing about and playing with the built-in soap dispensers.

For some of the kids, this is the first time they’ve seen running water in such abundance.  Where most of them live, the water comes out in trickles from the faucet or out of a large plastic catchall or a container.

Lian Krista Dela Rosa is a Grade Three student from Barangay 100, Tondo, Manila. "I know that I have to wash to keep my hands clean. The soap smells so fresh and nice and I like the dispensers!" The water tower can produce 1,000 liters of potable water an hour.

Camille Daguio, a Grade Four student living in Tondo’s Barangay 106 can’t get over the scent of the soap. Aaron Pallen who lives in Aromaland loves the design of the tower. He’s seen water tanks before, but this one with its stainless steel troughs and communal faucets is “special.”

The tower that’s so fascinated Aaron is a water filtration solution patented by Planet Water Foundation, a leading non-profit organization that addresses global water poverty in 13 countries worldwide.

The AquaTower filtration system uses gravity and doesn’t need external power or generators to function. Every hour, it produces 1,000 liters of drinking water per hour – capable of supporting the daily drinking water requirements of roughly 1,000 people.

Jomar Fleras, executive director of Rise Against Hunger was instrumental in bringing water to BWT. Capital One is one of Rise Against Hunger’s corporate partners who’ve aligned themselves with issues of food insecurity and water stress. When Fleras spoke to them about the community at BWT, they jumped at the chance to help.

Before Capital One's generous donation, BWT only had three taps for close to 150 students. Access to water is intrinsically linked to sanitation and hygiene and also broader questions of community empowerment. Now there are more water faucets, the children will be taught how to wash their hands properly and how to brush their teeth and take better care of their health and hygiene. “If I keep my hands clean, I won’t have germs,” says Grade Three student Eunice Balasabas.

Clean drinking water and access to sanitation have been shown to result in an 80 percent reduction in the incidence of waterborne diseases in some communities.

Fetalco tells us the kids will also have to be taught how to conserve water. But for now, she's happy to watch them splash about.

It’s all too easy to forget that water is a life-giver. Its absence or the lack of it is almost certain to keep people poor. At BWT, access to this basic human right is a way to enhance resilience an essential building block to defeat the cycle of poverty.


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